Until recently, test-takers were required to write two essays for the Analytical Writing Assessment on the GMAT. One was Analysis of an Argument, and the other was Analysis of an Issue. However, in 2012 GMAC made a major change to the exam. They added the Integrated Reasoning section, and they cut the Analytical Writing section in half. On the current version of the test you’ll only be required to write an Analysis of an Argument essay.
This portion of the exam lasts 30 minutes. You’ll be presented with an argument, and then you’ll spend the allotted time writing an essay critiquing the reasoning the author used to make the argument. In short, your task will be to decide if the author has made a well-reasoned case or not, and then write a brief essay explaining in what ways the argument is either well-reasoned or poorly reasoned. You’ll consider both the logic of the argument, any logical flaws in the author’s reasoning, and the evidence the author presented to back the argument up (or the lack thereof). The essay is used to measure your ability to comprehend a line of reasoning, find its strengths and/or weaknesses, and then expound upon them.
Of course, as in any writing assignment, the scorers will also be looking at your command of the English language. Essays that display a limited vocabulary, poor sentence structure, or ignorance of the rules of grammar will not receive a high score, no matter how impressive the analysis of the argument is from a logical perspective. They are not scored on knowledge of the subject matter. Arguments can be related to business, or many other topics, but they won’t require the test-taker to have any special technical knowledge. The test is given two independent scores from 1 to 6. One is by a computer program, and the other is by a human, with no interaction between them. If the two scores are the same or differ by only one point, then the two scores are averaged. If they differ by more than one point, then an expert human reader will read the essay and issue an official score.